RUSH: Now, Wall Street Journal today is running a little blurb in their political diary at OpinionJournal.com, and it begins this way: “GOP Senator Trent Lott has been itching for a way to get back into the political limelight ever since his injudicious comments at a birthday party for the late Strom Thurmond cost him the job of majority leader. Senator Ben Nelson is a Democrat from Nebraska who is desperate to assert his independence from the Democratic Party whose nominee only won 33% of the vote in his state, Nebraska, in 2004.
Now, together these two guys, these two senators have found common cause in promoting a way to avert the imminent confrontation over judicial filibusters,” and that’s where Roll Call gets into the act. “They are reporting that the two senators believe they’re close to a deal that could avert triggering of the so-called nuclear option. The deal would do this. It would involve having a half dozen members of each party sign a memo of understanding that would bind all of them to certain actions on judicial nominations. The six Republicans would agree to block Majority Leader Bill Frist’s plan to invoke the nuclear option and to give up trying to seek confirmation of three of the seven federal appeals court nominees who were filibustered in the last Congress. For their part the six Democrats would pledge to allow votes on the other four nominees, and vote to cut off filibusters on all other judicial nominees named by President Bush for the next year and a half, except in ‘extreme circumstances,'” quote, unquote.
The deal would include nominees for the Supreme Court, which could see one or two vacancies this summer. No commitments would be made for any nominations made after the 2006 elections. Now, this is not a deal that would satisfy anybody, but what it would do, it would accomplish what the Senate is best at, and that’s punting. Punting a problem like judicial filibusters down the road and just moving it down the road so it doesn’t have to be dealt with now — and it probably wouldn’t even solve the impasse temporarily. After all, one senator’s definition of “extreme circumstances” may differ from another’s. The Senate could be back into pitched warfare all over again. What this means, among other things, is that the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown would be killed. I am told that Senator Specter is ready to go for this. I’m told that Specter is ready to go for this.
These guys on our side, folks, I just don’t understand it. They are so afraid of upsetting long-standing Senate tradition. I’m having trouble keeping up with this. “Long-standing Senate tradition” is what the Democrats have violated. The filibustering of judges is unconstitutional. It undermines the president and the Senate’s constitutional powers. And why? Because a small minority of leftist senators refuse to abide by the election results. That’s all this is — and our guys on the Republican side, at least some of them, apparently, don’t care to fight that out. I think this is going to be a litmus test, folks. You talk about litmus tests? We want the Senate to defend the Constitution.
We want the Senate Republicans to defend the prerogatives of this president as in every past president and we want a vote. We want a vote on changing the filibuster so we know where each of these senators stands on such an important issue. This isn’t another pork bill or spending bill that you can just punt down the road and deal with later. This is a constitutional matter. You know, I’m getting blue in the face, but it seems necessary to warn Republican senators: This issue is extremely important to the grassroots out there. This is something that matters to the base, and they voted on this, and they’ll vote on it again in the future however it turns out, and what we’re all concerned about here is the power the judiciary exercises in this country today — and we’re concerned that not enough is being done about it by elected branches.
And if a Republican majority in the Senate can’t even — or worse, even, won’t — step to the plate to reinstitute what was the status quo for 214 years and push back the Chuck Schumers and Ted Kennedys and the Joe Bidens, then what principles do they stand for? This isn’t about the Senate “getting along.” That was thrown to the wind when the Democrats started filibustering and undermining 214 years of history. This is about defending the Constitution. We elected a Republican majority in the Senate. We expect them to represent us. It’s no more complicated than that. “Oh, no. No, no, Rush! You don’t understand. We must have comity in the Senate. People must get along, the staid tradition of the Senate, the saucer cooling the overheated coffee. Why, that must be maintained, Rush. Get with it.”
RUSH: All right, let me just reset the table with the deal. It’s not done yet, but Trent Lott, Republican, Ben Nelson, Democrat, are working on this deal that would avert the triggering of the nuclear option, and it would have six members of each party — six Democrats, six Republican senators — sign a memo of understanding that would bind all of them to certain actions on judicial nominees. The deal is basically this: The six Republicans would agree to block Majority Leader Bill Frist’s plan to invoke the nuclear option and give up seeking confirmation of three of the seven federal appeals court nominees filibustered in the last Congress. This is essentially the identical deal that we read about in the David Broder piece two Sundays ago that Biden then started talking about on television the same morning, and among those three would be Janice Rogers Brown. She’d be axed on this.
Now, what would the Democrats do on their part of the deal? Well, they would pledge to allow votes — just six of them, because you get six Republicans and six Democrats, that’s enough to throw everybody off, filibusters, nuclear option, everything else. They’re trying to find six Democrats and Republicans to do this. The Democrats would promise to allow votes on the other four nominees and vote to cut off filibusters on all other judicial nominees named by President Bush for the next year and a half except in “extreme circumstances.” Well, one of these six Democrats is all it would take to say, “Well, that’s extreme circumstances. I’m breaking the deal.” It gives the Democrats everything they want. It gives the Democrats everything they’ve proposed. The Democrats are the minority, and this lets them run the show.
Let me go to the audio sound bites. This was discussed, not the deal per se; that just hit this morning, but just to show you what we’re up against out there. We’ll start out with Carl Levin. This on This Week with Stephanopoulos, and Stephanopoulos said, “Senator Levin, the possible showdown in the Senate over whether or not to change the Senate rules to prevent a filibuster of judicial nominees, one possible compromise that’s been discussed is for the Democrats to, say, let there be debate on the president’s seven nominees, reserve the right to filibuster, but take off the table filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee. Would you accept that?”
LEVIN: This is really a critical issue and we should not rip up the rule book. We should not try to change the rule by breaking the rule and we’re going to count on some moderate Republicans in the Senate who love the Senate, love the traditions in the Senate.
RUSH: All right, hear that? “We shouldn’t rip up the rule book.” The rule book has already been ripped up by you, Senator Levin, and the rest of the Democrats in the Senate! You’re doing what hasn’t been done for 214 years. Now, listen to what they need. “We’re hoping. We’re counting on some moderate Republicans of the Senate who love the Senate, who love the traditions in the Senate,” and up and next, same show, Chuck Hagel, from Nebraska, Stephanopoulos says, “Well, you’re both smiling now because we both know that Senator Hagel is going to be a swing vote on this as well. You’ve been studious about not saying on you hour going to vote on this but have you told Senator Frist, this is a leadership vote, if you told him that he has your vote if he needs it.”
HAGEL: The Republicans’ hands aren’t clean on this either, what we did to Bill Clinton’s nominees, about 62 of them. We just didn’t give them votes in committee or we just didn’t bring them up. We need to work this through. I think that Frist and Reid can work this through. I don’t think it would be wise in the interests of our country or the United States Senate to let this come to this kind of an explosion in the United States Senate. My goodness, you’ve got a hundred United States senators. Some of us might be moderately intelligent enough to figure this out. We would, I think, debase our system and fail our country if we don’t do this. But you can’t give up a minority-rights tool in the interests of the country, like the filibuster.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re walking through a minefield, very delicately.
LEVIN: It’s that kind of statement that gives us hope.
RUSH: That was Senator Levin. That’s that kind of statement that gives us hope! That’s the kind of moderate Republican we’re looking for: Somebody that we can wrap around our little finger under the guise of being a moderate and an intelligent guy because he agrees with us. Now, let me go back to this business. Hagel said, “What we did with Clinton’s nominees about 62 of them, we just didn’t give them votes in committee or we didn’t bring them up.” In the first place, Bill Clinton had a large percentage (71%) of his nominees confirmed. George W. Bush has the lowest percentage (50%) of his nominees confirmed of any recent president, going back to Truman (over 90%). Now, in this case the filibuster was not used. There was no violation of Senate rules in what the Republicans did. They didn’t pass some of these nominees out of committee. Some of Bush’s nominees haven’t come out of committee. But none of the senators that came out of the judiciary committee when Clinton was president and the Republicans are running the committee, none of them were filibustered.
Those that got out of committee got votes on the floor. That is not what’s happening now. The Democrats are the ones trying to change the age-old traditions of the Senate, and here’s Hagel going along with them. I know he’s running for president, but I don’t know who he thinks his voting base is or is going to be. Because I guarantee, Senator Hagel, you know, we love you here, but I guarantee you, the last thing you want for your presidential campaign is for a Democrat senator as partisan as Carl Levin to say you are the kind of guy that gives the Senate Democrats hope. That is not going to help you as you seek the Republican nomination. I’ve been at odds with Senator Hagel over the years, but, you know, in this case, this is an honest appraisal of the political climate and circumstances out there.
The last thing he needs if he really wants the nomination, is to have a bunch of Democrat senators out there singing his praises. Let’s go to Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. On this show he had Senator George Allen and Chuck Schumer, and Chris Wallace said, “Senator Schumer, do the Republicans have the votes now to impose the nuclear option and change the rules on these filibusters?”
SCHUMER: Well, as best we can tell, Chris, they do not. There are five or six Republican senators who know deeply — because I’ve talked to some of them — how wrong this is but they’re under tremendous pressure from these way-out groups, and who are very important these days in the Republican Party. And they haven’t made up their mind. The whole reason that Bill Frist hasn’t brought it to the floor yet is he does not have the votes because of the heartfelt convictions of a handful of Republican senators who know deeply this is wrong.
RUSH: Next up was Senator Allen. Note the difference in these two men. Wallace says, “Senator Allen, do you have the votes or don’t you?”
ALLEN: I think we have the votes — and, by the way, despite what my good friend Charlie Schumer has to say as who’s motivating us, I was chairman of the Republican Senate committee the last two years and whether I was in Cajun country in southern Louisiana or the Black Hills of South Dakota or Alaska or, for that matter, the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. I’ve finished off speeches where we talk about less taxation, less litigation, leaders in innovation, finish with judges. People are motivated on this issue, and the architect of this obstruction, the chief obstructionist, Tom Daschle, is a former Democratic leader, and so I think the people of this country expect Republicans to act. We should not cower.
RUSH: There you have it. That’s George Allen. He is not saying things that Carl Levin or Chuck Schumer will say, “That’s useful. I think that’s the kind of attitude we’re looking for.” And for Schumer to say that there five or six Republican senators under tremendous pressure from these way-out groups who are very important these days, Senator Schumer, the most out of control, way-out bunch of kooks in this country has got their hands around your throat, if the truth be known. You guys are in the minority. You have lost the last two elections. You do not have a president that gets to pick judicial nominees. So this arrogance, this condescending arrogance, and then suggesting Republicans controlled by a bunch of wacko groups, and to not mention People for the American Way or any of these other civil rights groups that mobilize only around or primarily around the nomination of judges, to act like the Democrats are the reasonable ones and in the mainstream on this is just infuriating as it can be, and so we celebrate George Allen has the guts to say it as it is.
He’s not trying to impress anybody on both sides, not trying to get good quotes in the Washington Post or the New York Times, not trying to get puff pieces written about himself in either of those publications, and he knows full well. It’s what I just told you, wherever he went, the judges was the issue that got the biggest applause and indeed the issue on which the Republicans, his constituencies out there, were the most motivated. So it’s just amazing to watch all this play out and to see. If this Roll Call business is true, the Republicans, Trent Lott is trying to forge a bill. There may be some bad blood between Lott and President Bush over two things: base closures.
There’s some base closures in Mississippi, and Lott said as recently as April that he would exact his revenge somewhere, and let’s not forget that Lott was not happy when the White House basically joined the ranks of people condemning him for his, quote, unquote, “injudicious” statement about Strom Thurmond. So it’s payback time all over the place, and it’s just maddening to watch it. The thing that’s really insulting is for all this supposedly to be taking place under the guise of the Senate’s long-held traditions, and everybody just getting along. The long-held traditions been blown to smithereens by the Democrats the last four years.
RUSH: The thing that I guess is the most irritating to me about this, and I almost take this personally because I’ve found myself in similar circumstances over the years. It seems to me that the Senate Republicans are allowing themselves to be defined by their adversaries, the Democrats, the media. They are allowing themselves to be defined as the aggressors here, as the transgressors of Senate practice and the Constitution. What they ought to be doing is loudly and proudly making their case. There’s no reason to make any deal that weakens the Constitution and strengthens and emboldens the left. I mean, it’s out there all over the place that the Republicans are blowing up the Senate, the nuclear option here, the nuclear option there; 214 years of staid Senate tradition. “The Republicans are going to change a rule,” blah, blah, blah, blah. BS!
But they’re allowing themselves to be defined about this matter. As I said, President Bush has the lowest percentage of appellate court nominees of any modern president. He’s want ramming anything through the Senate. My gosh, folks, if we can’t even convince a Republican majority in the Senate to stand for what was the status quo in which the judiciary remained essentially unrestrained even with Republican presidents nominating supposedly originalist judges, how can we ever expect to make progress on this front to reign in the judiciary? If we can’t even stand up to this, how we gonna straighten out what’s gone wrong in the judiciary? Now, again, this is all predicated on the fact that this Roll Call story is accurate.
I mean it’s not a done deal but it’s been published. It hasn’t been asked about. This was not discussed on the Sunday programs yesterday at all. By the way, Lott, here are details. This is an AP story from April the 8th: “Trent Lott, Mississippi, staunch supporter of military facilities in his state, said that he’s not done trying to halt this year’s planned closure of domestic bases even though President Bush thwarted his latest attempt. Lott said, ‘I have options on unrelated issues. Everything in the United States Senate relates to everything else,'” and we could also apply this to Voinovich and the cuts at this John Glenn NASA center outside Cleveland. You know, Voinovich has not even spoken to Bolton? It’s been two weeks, Voinovich has not even had Bolton in to talk to him about whatever his so-called problems are.
It kind of indicates here that Voinovich’s actions are not even based on Bolton but about what Bush’s bulletin is and here’s Lott basically saying the same thing. What would you call this, a veiled threat? “I have options on unrelated issues?” That’s April 8th. Here we are on May 9th and all of a sudden Lott is the Republican architect of a deal with Ben Nelson that essentially gives Dingy Harry the deal he wanted two weeks ago when it comes to these judges. Here Barbara in Springfield, Virginia. Let’s start with the phones. Nice to have you on the program. Welcome.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush. You know, I’m listening to you and I think most of us realize that we, the people who vote can stand up for our judges but it seems that once these people get into the Senate, they are just become mush or something. If anything we need more senators like George Allen who realize that the best defense is a good offense. Politics is a contact sport and people are concerned that our elected representatives are not doing their job. They’re not giving the perfectly qualified judges an up-and-down vote.
RUSH: Yeah, well, I know. This is one of the mysteries and one of the problems, and I’ve discussed this countless times. They go through the election process. They get elected, they get to Washington, they sometimes forget, it seems, who elected them and why. You know, we’ve talked about this. I’m going to mention it all again. I get blue in the face, talking about this so much, but there obviously are pressures inside Washington, DC, that everybody wants to be treated like McCain and Hagel get treated, is the main thing.
There’s a way you do that. You go against your own party. You go out and get Democrat senators to say, “That’s the kind of statement we need. That’s the kind of thing that gives us hope.” I mean they’ll love you in Washington. They’ll love you at the New York Times and Washington Post if you talk that way. Walter in Plainview, Illinois. Glad you called, sir. You’re next. Hello.
CALLER: Hey, I just wanted… I disagreed with you a little bit on what this nuclear option would really do now. I believe that the Republicans shouldn’t do it because I think it would give the Democrats a huge issue for next year, and we know how they are all the time with that.
RUSH: You know, this is exactly… I understand your thinking. The problem is this is the kind of thinking that’s ten to 15 years old. The thinking ought to be we need to fire the nuclear option now and make what the Democrats are doing the issue in ’06, just like we did with Tom Daschle who is now a former Senate minority leader. He’s not even in the Senate. He was defeated. You have the attitude that the Republicans in Washington probably have. “You know what? We don’t want to do this now; they’ll make this an issue against some of us in ’06 and we’ll be in deep doo-doo. We’ll hold this off,” blah, blah, blah, blah. No, no, no, no! We’re talking about the Constitution.
We’re talking about doing what’s right. You balance the political concerns with it, of course, but the political opportunity here is one that I see. My gosh, these guys just lost their minority leader and they lost even more seats in 2004 because they were obstructionists. They’re even bigger obstructionists now than they were in 2004. It’s time to make that the issue and trigger the nuclear option. Now, the Republicans if they do this they’re also going to have to go on the offensive and they’ve got to have to stop letting the Democrats and the media define them as the guys blowing up the Senate. It’s a PR thing. How often have we complained about this? As I say, folks, it’s a bit of a broken record, but we keep plugging away because it’s the right thing to do.
RUSH: I think something else we need to do out there, folks, as part of all this going on the offense and not letting the Republicans be defined by Democrats and the media, we need to start discussing judicial activism. See, the liberals don’t want to discuss judicial activism; they don’t want to discuss judicial tyranny, which is what’s going on here. They don’t want to discuss how the judicial activists confer rights on the enemy, as in prisoners of war that are Al-Qaeda at G’itmo, or benefits on illegal immigrants, as have been done, endless appeals for criminals. I mean, that’s why these judges are important. We’re not talking about just the rules of the Senate here. We’re talking about why these nominees are important, and they need to talk about that to educate people as well, because there’s an attempt to end judicial activism here with these nominees. It’s what the president is trying to do.